ALTON — When the opportunity presented itself, Lee Green jumped at it.
For someone who’s had the experience of coaching at the collegiate level, worked with various levels of AAU kids and previously working in the prep ranks with Jonathan Denney and the Civic Memorial girls, and starting at the middle school level 21 years ago, the chance to help rebuild the Marquette Catholic girls basketball program was one Green felt compelled to take.
Green, whose daughter Hayli was a four-year starter (2013-16) for Lori Blade’s Edwardsville softball program and son Sammy, a junior, is currently on Steve Medford’s boys basketball team, feels right about the fit.
Green worked on Wendy Hedberg’s staff at SIUE from 2002-08 before joining Denney’s staff for three seasons from 2009-11. Prior to SIUE, Green worked as an assistant and head coach at Hope International University, a NAIA school in Fullerton, Calif. And since leaving the CM program, Green most recently has been working with select AAU kids at Team First and previously developed the Lee Green Basketball Academy and Southern Illinois Stars basketball program.
Green inherits a program that was 13-15 last season under Meghan Hanlon; the Explorers were 7-20 in 2014-15, and Green has four seniors (Megan Bunce, Jordan Rook, Madi Connors and Kelsey Blasingim) he wants to enjoy their final season, but this is about building for the future.
“We have some seniors that are definitely giving us some good time,” Green said. “But I think the future is with the young kids and so we’re really trying to incorporate them. Emma Nicholson is a freshman and a whole slew of juniors (Taylor Aguirre, Lila Snider, Peyton Kline, Lauren Fischer and Regina Guehlstorf and a sophomore group that includes Grace Dennis, Payton Connors, Katie Williams and Kennedy Neal) that are getting better every single day. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. It’s a situation where I’m still trying to find the right combinations and until we get that, stuff like (Thursday night’s loss) is going to happen with turnovers.
“I want our seniors to go out and have a successful and fun season, but ultimately we’re building for next year with these young kids and we’re going to keep teaching them the fundamentals of the game and get better every day.”
After a 49-36 loss to Jersey on Thursday, Marquette fell to 5-6, and their season to this point has been alternating wins and losses. And in a first season of a feeling-out process, it includes trying to find the pulse of a group and its identity.
“I’m still trying to find it out,” Green said. “I have an idea what I want it to be. I want us to be a nasty defensive team and I want to play transition offense, which we tried to do at the beginning of the year and we were turning the ball over like crazy against no press just making bad passes. So we just tried slowing it down, but eventually Marquette girls basketball, our identity is going to be transition basketball and pressure defense.”